The pope said that on Friday (March 27) evening he would deliver an extraordinary "Urbi et Orbi" blessing from an empty St. Peter's Square.
Popes ordinarily deliver the special blessings only twice a year - on Christmas and Easter - and his decision to make an exception underscores the gravity of the situation worldwide but particularly in Italy.
Catholics who receive the blessing, either in person or via the media, can, under certain conditions, receive a special indulgence. An indulgence is remission of punishment for sins.
"We want to respond to the pandemic of the virus with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness," he said from the papal library.